Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth
2016 Honorable Mention - Freeman Book Award for Young Adult / Middle School Literature Told through the eyes of a middle school American boy who is living in Japan, students have a compelling account of issues ever present in society today and how to deal with them: bullying, feeling isolated, not fitting in, cross-cultural understanding, and how to survive teenage years. It is also a window into Japanese culture and school life, while exploring emotions and issues that all teenagers are constantly facing when "friend groups" dominate and exclusion is visible and difficult, especially when moving across the cultural pathways. "In a Japanese seaside neighborhood lives Jason Parker: a sixth grader one year older than his classmates a stinking foreigner to some classmates an orange belt in aikido a big brother Jason Parker is just a boy trying to get through his days with calm and courage. If only everyone around him would let him. This is a beautifully spare novel in verse about one boy’s life—a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to fit in."
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Henry Holt and Co.
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Falling into the Dragon's Mouth is not a Complete Fail
Told in verse, Falling into the Dragon's Mouth by Holly Thompson is a cute enough story for middle school students to easily relate to and pick up on the overt message of anti-bullying. The underlying themes of friends, forgiveness, and filial duty are well done and weave the story together nicely. It is an easy read and both boys and girls should enjoy taking a look at an Americans time in the Japan of today. The look at Japanese education and culture is well done and easily explained by the protagonist, Jason Parker, as he struggles to complete the sixth grade in a Japanese middle school. Trying to deal with classmates who look down on him or ignore him because he is American is the main focus of this story. Taking care of his younger sister while his parents work hard to be able to save enough money for Jason to go an International school, creates some interesting and humorous situations. The climax is scary but quite realistic and shows students that they can't always deal with bullies on their own as Jason tried to do. The real disappointment was that there wasn't more cultural information included for students to truly understand Japanese culture. They simply get a cursory look at it, which is probably all a middle school verse told story is going to be able to do.